United States is a superpower not just economically or in terms of military might but also in the world of pageantry. It is ranked number one at the Big 5 ranking and because it boasts 8 crowns at Miss Universe, it is rare to find a Miss USA landing outside of the semifinals.
History shows that USA has only missed the cut at Miss Universe in four instances: 1976, 1999, 2002 and 2010. When such rarity happens, we are pressed to ask as to why it occurred. Unfortunately, there are no definite answers, and we can only assume based on historical tidbits and personal recollections of pageant historians.
Preliminary scores are perhaps the best source of clues as to what happened. However, these are not always available. It is true that swimsuit scores were published in 1980s while the entire prelim scores were flashed onscreen during the 1990s. Unfortunately, in the years when Miss USA failed to be the semis, Miss Universe either did not yet reveal the prelim scores or decided to stop the practice.
Here, we take a look at those years when a Miss USA was inexplicably left out.
Hong Kong hosted the Miss Universe 1976 and it created a lot of buzz. At that time, Hong Kong was still a British colony, and the pageant was considered as the most significant local event since the Japanese invasion. There were controverses though. Two contestants claimed they were inappropriately approached by the son of a gambling mogul who was a major sponsor of the event. The contestants also complained that they were herded like cattle with strict schedules and exhausting events. The choice of the winner, Miss Israel Rina Messinger, was questioned due to possible security risks when traveling since Israeli citizens were randomly targeted by extremists during that time.
Some contestants got sick and one of them was Miss USA Barbara Peterson. News reports indicated that she suffered sore throat and that could have an impact in her preliminary performance. Those who made it to the Top 12 were mainly Caucasians and Latinas. Interestingly, the only Asian to make it to the semis was Miss Hong Kong Rowena Lam. Asian powerhouses during that period like the Philippines, Thailand and Japan were largely ignored.
Until this day, there are no clear answers to the mysterious circumstances surrounding the failure of Barbara Peterson. Such failure was not considered a big issue back then, at least for the mainstream media. Barbara also kept mum about the issue. Complaining and sourgraping was considered unladylike.
In 1987, Barbara Peterson wrote a book entitled Becoming a Beauty Queen: The Complete Guide. The book focused more on the preparations and expectations in joining beauty pageants. Some of the tips and guidelines stated in the book are no longer relevant today. It also offers very little glimpse of what happened during her Miss Universe 1976 stint. On page 160 however, the following could offer some clues: “When selecting a competition dress, plan for disaster. Always bring at least one extra gown to the auditorium. Barbara was rewarded for her insurance preparation when she competed in the Miss Universe pageant. She intended to wear a vivid blue silk gown; however, when she put it on backstage, the zipper fell out of the back. Barbara simply wore the white chiffon dress she had brought with her as an insurance.” Her book is available at Amazon in paper-back format. https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Beauty-Queen-Complete-Guide/dp/0130717479
Kimberly Ann Pressler
It took decades later for another anomaly to occur. In 1999, the Miss Universe pageant was held in Trinidad and Tobago. A year earlier, the country won the crown thanks to Wendy Fitzwilliam. The pageant was a big deal for such a small country but the revenues from expected tourists didn’t materialize.
The Miss Universe 1999 pageant was historic as it was the first time that a black winner was crowned by a black predecessor. Mpule Kwelagobe is the first Miss Botswana to be crowned as Miss Universe and her victory was an indication that the dynamics of the contest was far from being conventional. Four women of color (Carolina Indriago was the first woman of color to win Miss Venezuela) made it to the semifinals while heavy favorites like Miss Brazil Renata Fan, Miss Panama Yamani Saied and Miss France Mareva Galanter failed.
Miss USA Kimberly Ann Pressler was not really considered as a frontrunner. She was however expected to make it to the semifinals. There were no explanations or even attempt to analyze her non-placement at Miss Universe 1999. Interestingly, the local girl, Miss Trinidad and Tobago Nicole Simone Dyer, also failed to make it.
Kimberly Ann Pressler did not totally abandon the pageantry world after her reign. She hosted several state pageants like Miss Massachusetts USA, Miss Massachusetts Teen USA, and at times, she also sat as one of the judges. An article from Observer published in 1999 gave insight how Kimberly Ann’s beauty and demeanor were perceived by beauty analysts. “Across the table sat Miss U.S.A., Kimberly Ann Pressler, a perky, 21-year-old pug-nosed beauty from upstate Franklinville, N.Y. (population 1,700). She filled the silence by talking about her secret for dominating the question-and-answer portion of beauty pageants.” https://observer.com/1999/11/three-beauty-queens-in-one-apartment/
When Shauntay Hinton won the Miss USA 2002 title, YouTube and Facebook doesn’t exist yet. United States was still reeling from the terrorist attacks that destroyed the twin towers of World Trade Center and parts of Pentagon. To honor the first responders, Shauntay donned a firefighter overalls as her national costume. Back then, pageant analysts had this hunch that out of sympathy and to lift up the gloomy mood of the Americans, Shauntay will be crowned.
However, Shauntay was simply overwhelmed by much stronger competitors and alas, her sash didn’t save her as what most of the pageant observers expected. It was the year when the Top 10 were filled with tall, sophisticated and glamorous candidates to the point that Miss India Neha Dupia (who stood an inch shorter than Shuanty) had to pouf her hair to avoid being drowned by fellow semifinalists.
Shauntay’s rather strong body build and her poor gown choice could be the reasons on why she was not one of the semifinalists. It could be true, and it is also true that the competition was too intense. Even Miss Colombia Vanessa Mendoza, the predicted winner of Missosology and many other pageant-related website failed to make the cut.
Miss Universe was on the cusp of dramatic changes back in 2002. The new Mikimoto crown was unveiled replacing the iconic one used for decades. New technology was deployed to improve the telecast and Donald Trump was pushing for a more business-oriented pageant. People’s Republic of China participated for the first time and placed as 2nd runner-up.
In 2010, Rima Fakih’s coronation as Miss USA was anything but quiet. As soon as she won, she was bombarded with criticisms and controversies. Photos of Rima participating in a pole dancing contest circulated online. Remember, at that time, the use of social media was rising exponentially, and any controversies will spread like wildfire. The controversial photo almost cost Rima her crown but the Miss USA organization determined that it was not a ground for dethronement.
Rima was also a controversial winner for being the first Arab-American and Muslim Miss USA. She earned the ire of Islamic extremists for competing in swimsuit competition calling her indecent. She was also attacked by Christian extremists labelling her as Miss Hezbollah and that her victory was due to political correctness that panders to the Muslims.
These controversies may have cost Rima her place in the semifinals. There were also rumors about her attitude, wrong gown used during the prelims and gaining extra weight. Miss Universe 2010 was historic as well because it was the first time – and so far the only instance to date – that both a Miss USA and a Miss Venezuela were left out of the semifinals!
Right wing blogger Debbie Schlussel gave the most scathing remark on Rima Fakih. In her blog she wrote the following: “It’s a sad day in America but a very predictable one, given the politically correct, Islamo-pandering climate in which we’re mired. The Hezbollah-supporting Shi’ite Muslim, Miss Michigan Rima Fakih—whose bid for the pageant was financed by an Islamic terrorist and immigration fraud perpetrator–won the Miss USA contest. I was on top of this story before anyone, telling you about who Fakih is and her extremist and deadly ties.” READ https://www.debbieschlussel.com/22000/donald-trump-dhimmi-miss-hezbollah-wins-miss-usa-was-contest-rigged-for-muslima-hezbollah-supporter-miss-oklahomas-great-arizona-immigration-answer/
It has been 10 long years since a Miss USA missed the semifinals at Miss Universe. It will be a while before it will happen again considering that USA is a very strong sash and is ranked No. 1 at the Big 5 ranking. The country’s strength rests on its geographical size, economic clout and its racial diversity. The question therefore is not when will USA miss the semis again. It’s more about when will be its next crown.